Psalm 22
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The first and greatest of the ‘Passion Psalms,’ consecrated for us by our Lord’s appropriation of it to Himself. His utterance of the opening words of it upon the Cross has been thought with much probability to indicate that the whole Psalm was the subject of His meditations during those hours of agony. But this application and fulfilment does not exclude a primary and historical reference.

A. i. The Psalm opens with the agonised cry of a persecuted saint, who feels himself deserted by God (Psalm 22:1-2). He appeals to the character of God (Psalm 22:3) and to the experience of His mercy in past ages (Psalm 22:4-5), whereas he is the butt and victim of scornful persecutors (Psalm 22:6-8), though from his birth he has been dependent upon God (Psalm 22:9-10).

ii. He urges his plea for help (Psalm 22:11), describing alternately the virulence of his foes (Psalm 22:12-13; Psalm 22:16; Psalm 22:18), and the pitiable plight to which he is reduced (Psalm 22:14-15; Psalm 22:17). Still more earnestly he repeats his prayer (Psalm 22:19-21), till in an instant the certainty of deliverance flashes upon him (21 b).

B. i. The darkness of despair is past. He can look forward with confidence to the future. He avows his purpose to proclaim God’s goodness in a public act of thanksgiving (Psalm 22:22), calling upon all that fear Jehovah to join him in adoration (Psalm 22:23-24), and to share the blessings of the eucharistic feast (Psalm 22:25-26).

ii. And now a yet sublimer prospect opens to his view. Jehovah’s sovereignty will one day be universally recognised (Psalm 22:27-29); and His gracious Providence will be celebrated by all succeeding generations (Psalm 22:30-31).

The Psalm thus falls into two divisions, each of which is subdivided into two nearly equal parts.

A. Present needs. i. Plaintive expostulation (Psalm 22:1-10). ii. Prayer for deliverance (Psalm 22:11-21).

B. Future hopes. i. Thanksgiving for answered prayer (Psalm 22:22-26). ii. The extension of Jehovah’s kingdom (Psalm 22:27-31).

Commentators differ widely in their views of the scope, occasion, and date of the Psalm. The chief lines of interpretation may be termed the personal, the ideal, the national, and the predictive.

(1) The first impression produced by the Psalm is that it is a record of personal experience. The title ascribes it to David, and it has been variously supposed to reflect the circumstances of Saul’s persecution, or Absalom’s rebellion, or perhaps to gather into one focus all the vicissitudes of a life of much trial, or possibly to describe the fate he feared at some crisis rather than actual experiences. Delitzsch, who maintains the Davidic authorship, supposes it to have been written with reference to David’s narrow escape from Saul in the wilderness of Maon (1 Samuel 23:25 f.). But he admits that the history gives us no ground for supposing that David actually underwent such sufferings as are here described. There is, he thinks, an element of poetic hyperbole in the picture, which has been used by the Spirit of God with a prophetic purpose. The Psalm has its roots in David’s own experience, but its language reaches far beyond it to the sufferings of Christ.

Others have thought of Hezekiah, whose deliverance and recovery made an impression upon foreign nations (2 Chronicles 32:23); others, with more probability, of Jeremiah, with special reference perhaps to the situation described in ch. Psalm 37:11 ff.; others of some unknown poet of the Exile.

(2) But many features in the Psalm appear to transcend the limits of an individual experience. Hence some have seen in the speaker the ideal person of the righteous sufferer. The Psalm describes how the righteous must suffer in the world; how Jehovah delivers him in his extremity; how that deliverance redounds to His glory and the extension of His kingdom.

(3) From a somewhat similar point of view others have regarded the speaker as a personification of the Jewish nation in exile, persecuted by the heathen, apparently forsaken by Jehovah.

(4) Others again, concentrating their attention upon the striking agreement of the Psalm, even in minute details, with the facts of Christ’s Passion, have regarded it as wholly predictive.

Each of these lines of interpretation contains some truth; none is complete by itself. The intensely personal character of the Psalm bears witness that it springs from the experience of an individual life; yet it goes beyond an individual experience; the Psalmist is a representative character; he has absorbed into himself a real sense of the sufferings of others like himself, perhaps even of Israel as a nation; he interprets their thoughts; to some extent, secondarily at any rate, he is the mouthpiece of the nation. But the Psalm goes further. It is prophetic. These sufferings were so ordered by the Providence of God, as to be typical of the sufferings of Christ; the record of them was so shaped by the Spirit of God, as to foreshadow, even in detail, many of the circumstances of the Crucifixion; while the glorious hopes for the future anticipate most marvellously the blessed consequences of the Passion; ut non tam prophetia quam historia videatur (Cassiodorus). But the fulfilment far transcends the prophetic outline, and reveals (what in the Psalm is but hinted at, if so much as hinted at) the connexion of redemption with suffering.

It is impossible to speak definitely about the date and authorship of the Psalm. It is certainly difficult to connect it with what we know of David’s life; and we seem rather to be within the circle of prophetic thought out of which sprang the portrait of the suffering servant of Jehovah in the second book of Isaiah. The parallels with that book should be carefully studied. Yet the portrait there is more fully developed. The redemptive purpose of suffering is more explicitly realised. Here, though a glorious future succeeds the night of suffering, there is no organic connexion shewn between them.

The Psalm should be studied in the light of its fulfilment in regard both to its general drift and to particular allusions. The opening words were uttered by Christ upon the Cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). St John (John 19:24) expressly speaks of the partition of Christ’s garments by the soldiers as a fulfilment of Psalm 22:18 (cp. Matthew 27:35, where however the quotation is interpolated), Psalm 22:14 ff. are a startlingly graphic anticipation of the agonies of crucifixion, even to the piercing of the hands and feet. The mockery of the bystanders is described in the language of the Psalm, and the chief priests borrow it for their scoffing (Psalm 22:7 ff., cp. Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:29 ff.; Luke 23:35 ff.). The words of thanksgiving (Psalm 22:22) are applied to Christ by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Psalm 2:12). The application of the concluding verses is obvious, though no actual reference is made to them in the N.T.

Yet it should be observed in how many points the type falls short of the fulfilment. It could not be otherwise. It is but one of many fragments of truth revealed beforehand which were to be summed up and receive their explanation in Christ.

Two points deserve special notice in connexion with the Messianic application of the Psalm. It contains no confession of sin; and it has none of the terrible imprecations which startle us in the kindred Psalms 69, 109.

The choice of the Psalm as a Proper Psalm for Good Friday needs no comment.

upon Aijeleth Shahar] Rather, set to Ayyéleth hash-Shahar, i.e. the hind of the morning, the title of some song to the melody of which the Psalm was to be sung, so called either from its opening words or from its subject. Cp. the title of Psalms 9. It is useless to speculate whether ‘the hind of the morning’ in this song meant literally the hind bestirring itself, or hunted, in the early morning, or figuratively, the morning dawn. The phrase is used in the Talmud for the first rays of the dawn, “like two horns of light ascending from the east,” but this later use can hardly determine its meaning here.

Explanations which regard the phrase as descriptive of the contents of the Psalm:—e.g. the hind as an emblem of persecuted innocence, the dawn as an emblem of deliverance:—must be rejected as contrary to the analogy of other titles.

The LXX renders, concerning the help that cometh in the morning, explaining ayyéleth by the similar word eyâlûth (strength or succour) in Psalm 22:19. The Targum connects it with the morning sacrifice, and paraphrases concerning the virtue of the continual morning sacrifice.

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
1. The expostulation of astonishment and perplexity, not a demand for explanation. Faith and despair are wrestling in the Psalmist’s mind. Faith can still claim God as ‘my God,’ and does not cease its prayers; despair thinks itself forsaken. So Zion in her exile said, “Jehovah hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). Cp. Psalm 13:1, Psalm 88:14. God is El, and so in Psalm 22:10. Cp. Psalm 63:1, and note on Psalm 5:4.

Christ upon the Cross used the Aramaic version of these words, for Aramaic was His mother tongue. Eli (Matthew 27:46) is the Hebrew word, retained in the present text of the Targum: Eloi (Mark 15:34) the Aramaic. The best MSS. have Eloi in Matt. also.

Why art thou so far &c.] The alternative rendering in R.V. marg., far from my help are the words of my roaring, follows the construction adopted by the LXX, Vulg., and Jer. But it is harsh, even if my help (or my salvation) is taken to mean God Himself (Psalm 35:3); and the rendering in the text appears to give the sense correctly. Cp. Psalm 10:1; and Psalm 22:11; Psalm 22:19.

my roaring] The groaning of the sufferer in his distress is compared to the lion’s roar. Cp. Psalm 32:3; Psalm 38:8.

1–10. The pleading cry of the forsaken and persecuted servant of God.

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
2. thou hearest not] R.V., thou answerest not.

and am not silent] Better as R.V. marg., but find no rest: no answer comes to bring me respite.

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
3. An appeal to God’s moral character, as the Holy One of Israel. The Heb. word for holy is derived from a root signifying separation. It characterises God negatively, as separate from the limitations and imperfections of the world and man; and positively, it comes to express the essential nature of God in its moral aspect, as pure, righteous, faithful, supremely exalted. In virtue of His holiness he cannot be false to His covenant. Cp. Habakkuk’s plea (Habakkuk 1:12); and for another side of the truth, Isaiah 5:16.

O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel] Rather as R.V. marg., O thou that art enthroned upon the praises of Israel: a bold adaptation of the phrase that sittest enthroned upon the cherubim (2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1). The praises of Israel, ascending like clouds of incense, form as it were the throne upon which Jehovah sits. They are a perpetual memorial of His mighty acts in times past (Exodus 15:11; Psalm 78:4; Isaiah 63:7); and surely He cannot have ceased to give occasion for those praises (Psalm 22:25)! The P.B.V. is based on an untenable construction of the words, in its rendering, And thou continuest holy, O thou worship of Israel, and it takes praises of Israel to mean God Himself as the object of Israel’s praises.

Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
4, 5. The thought of the preceding line is developed in an appeal to the past history of the nation. Cp. Psalm 44:1, Psalm 78:3, Psalm 9:10. ‘Thou didst deliver them: why then am I deserted?’ The emphasis is throughout on thee.

In thee did our fathers trust:

They trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

Unto thee did they cry, and escaped:

In thee did they trust, and were not put to shame.

They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
6. a worm] Trampled under foot, despised, defenceless. Almost every word of this verse finds a parallel in the second part of Isaiah. Jehovah’s servant Israel is there called a worm (Isaiah 41:14); and the ideal representative of Israel is one whom men despise (Isaiah 49:7, Isaiah 53:3); from whom they shrink with horror as scarcely human (Isaiah 52:14, Isaiah 53:2-3). Comp. too Psalm 51:7.

the people] Or, people, generally; those with whom he is brought in contact.

6, 7. The contrast of his own lot.

All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
7. laugh me to scorn] LXX. ἐξεμυκτήρισαν, the word used by St Luke (Luke 23:35) of the rulers scoffing at Christ. They gape with their lips (Job 16:10; Psalm 35:21); they shake the head (Psalm 109:25; Lamentations 2:15; Job 16:4), gestures partly of contempt, partly of feigned abhorrence. Comp. Matthew 27:39.

He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
8. ‘Roll it upon Jehovah! let him deliver him:

Let him rescue him, for he delighteth in him.’

Ironically they bid the sufferer ‘roll’ i.e. commit his cause to Jehovah. The verb is certainly imperative, as in Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 16:3; though the Versions all give the perfect tense, and the words are quoted in that form in Matthew 27:43. Usage makes it certain that the subject in the last clause is Jehovah, as in Psalm 18:19.

There is a remarkable parallel to this passage in Wis 2:16 ff. The ungodly say of the righteous man: “He maketh his boast that God is his Father. Let us see if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him. For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies.” The whole passage is worth comparing.

But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
9. But thou art he] Rather, Yea, thou art he. The mocking words of his enemies are true, and he turns them into a plea. All his past life has proved Jehovah’s love. Cp. Psalm 71:5-6.

thou didst make me hope] Rather, that didst make me trust, (cp. Psalm 22:4-5). The marg., keptest me in safety, lit. didst make me lie securely upon my mother’s breasts, is a less probable rendering. The P.B.V. my hope follows LXX, Vulg., Jer., which represent a slightly different reading.

I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
10. Upon thee have I been cast &c. Upon thee stands first emphatically. Cp. Psalm 22:4-5. To THY care have I been entrusted from my birth. Cp. Psalm 55:22; Psalm 71:6. There does not seem to be any reference to the practice of placing a new-born infant upon its father’s knees, as much as to say, Thou didst adopt me.

Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
11. Be not far from me] The expostulation of Psalm 22:1 is turned into a prayer, again repeated in Psalm 22:19. He urges his plea on the double ground that while Jehovah still stands afar off in seeming indifference, distress is close at hand, and there is no other helper to whom he can look.

11–21. The Psalmist pleads for help with intenser earnestness. The virulence of his foes increases. Strength and endurance are exhausted.

Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
12. He compares his insolent enemies to wanton bulls, which “are in the habit of gathering in a circle round any novel or unaccustomed object, and may easily be irritated into charging with their horns” (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 71). Bashan is here used in a wide sense for the district from the Jabbok to the spurs of Hermon, including part of Gilead. It was famous for its rich pastures (Numbers 32:1 ff.; Deuteronomy 32:14; Amos 4:1).

They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
13. They gaped &c.] R.V., they gape upon me with their mouths (Lamentations 2:16; Lamentations 3:46); like a lion roaring as it prepares to spring upon its prey (Psalm 7:2).

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
14. Cp. Joshua 7:5; Psalm 6:2 ff. It is the experience of the dying man. Cp. Newman’s Dream of Gerontius,

“This emptying out of each constituent

And natural force, whereby I come to be.”

14–17. The effects of anxiety and persecution. Vital strength and courage fail; his frame is racked and tortured; he is reduced to a skeleton.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
15. The vital sap and moisture of the body are dried up. Cp. Psalm 32:4. Possibly for my strength we should read my palate. Cp. Psalm 69:3.

thou hast brought me] Thou art laying me. Even in this persecution he can recognise the hand of God. His tormentors are Jehovah’s instruments. Cp. Acts 2:23.

For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
16. A fresh description of his foes. An unclean, cowardly, worrying rabble, like the troops of hungry and half-savage dogs with which every oriental city and village still abounds (Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 79), come thronging round him: a gang of miscreants have hemmed him in.

They pierced my hands and my feet] The figure of the savage dogs is still continued. They fly at his feet and hands, and maim them.

The A.V. here rightly deserts the Massoretic text in favour of the reading represented by the LXX, Vulg., and Syr., which have, they dug, or, pierced. Another group of ancient Versions (Aq. Symm. Jer.) gives they bound. (Fixerunt in some editions of Jerome is a corruption for the true reading vinxerunt.) The Massoretic text has, like a lion my hands and my feet. A verb did they mangle must be supplied, but the construction is harsh and the sense unsatisfactory. It seems certain that a somewhat rare verb form כארו (kâ’ărû), ‘they pierced,’ has been corrupted into the similar word כארי (kâ’ărî), ‘like a lion.’ The Targum perhaps preserves a trace of the transition in its conflate rendering, biting like a lion.

The literal fulfilment in the Crucifixion is obvious. But it is nowhere referred to in the N.T.

I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
17. I may tell] i.e. I can count. He is reduced to a living skeleton. Cp. Job 33:21.

they look &c.] While they—they gaze &c. The original expresses the malicious delight with which these monsters of cruelty feast their eyes upon the sorry spectacle.

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
18. His brutal enemies are only waiting for his death that they may strip his body, and divide his clothes between them. Already they are settling their respective shares. This is a simpler explanation than to suppose that the Psalmist represents himself as a prisoner stripped and led out to execution, or as waylaid and plundered by robbers (Job 24:7-10; Micah 2:8). It need not be supposed that this actually happened to the Psalmist. The language is perhaps proverbial. But it was literally fulfilled in the circumstances of the Crucifixion (John 19:23-24; cp. Matthew 27:35, where, however, the reference to the prophecy in the Received Text is an interpolation).

and cast lots &c.] R.V., and upon my vesture do they cast lots. The inner garment, the “seamless tunic,” which would be spoilt by rending.

But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
19. The prayer for help is repeated after this description of the urgency of his need. But thou, O lord (in emphatic contrast to they in Psalm 22:17), keep not thou far off. The sufferer looks away from his numerous tormentors and fixes his gaze upon Jehovah.

O my strength] R.V., O thou my succour.

Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
20. from the sword] From a violent death.

my darling] Lit., my only one. The clue to the meaning is given by the use of the word of an only child (Genesis 22:2; Jdg 11:34). The word denotes the one precious life which can never be replaced. Cp. Psalm 35:17.

the dog] See on Psalm 22:16.

Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
21. for thou hast heard me &c.] Render, yea from the horns of the wild oxen—thou hast answered me. A singularly bold and forcible construction. We expect a second imperative, repeating the prayer for deliverance (rescue thou me: cp. Jer. exaudi). But the conviction that his prayer is heard, nay, answered, flashes upon the Psalmist’s soul; prayer is changed into assurance, joyous confidence takes the place of petition. Less forcible is the explanation which assumes a pregnant rather than a broken construction:—From the horns of the wild oxen thou hast answered and delivered me.

unicorns] The rendering of LXX, Vulg., Jer. But the re’çm was certainly a two-horned animal (Deuteronomy 33:17, R.V.). The Auerochs or wild ox (Bos primigenius), now everywhere extinct, is almost certainly the animal meant. Its strength and untamableness are described in Job 39:9 ff. See Tristram’s Nat. Hist. p. 146 ff.

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
22. thy name] All that Thou hast proved thyself to be. See note on Psalm 5:11.

my brethren] By the ties of national and religious sympathy. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Psalm 2:12) puts these words directly into the mouth of Christ, “He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”

in the midst of the congregation] Gratitude demands the most public proclamation of Jehovah’s lovingkindness. It concerns all the faithful to know what He has wrought, and all the faithful must join in thanksgiving for the deliverance vouchsafed to their fellow and representative. Cp. Psalm 40:9-10; Psalm 35:18.

will I praise thee] Now he can contribute his share to the praises which form Jehovah’s throne (Psalm 22:3). Praise is four times repeated in Psalm 22:22-26.

22–31. Convinced that his prayer is heard, the Psalmist breaks forth with resolutions of public thanksgiving (22–26); and the glorious prospect of Jehovah’s universal kingdom opens up before him (27–31). “Thou answerest not” (Psalm 22:2) is the key-note of Psalm 22:1-21; “Thou hast answered me of Psalm 22:22-31”. (Cheyne).

Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
23. ye that fear the Lord] Possibly coextensive with the seed of Jacob, but pointing rather to the inner circle of true believers who are in fullest sympathy with the Psalmist. See note on Psalm 115:11.

seed of Jacob … seed of Israel] Cp. Isaiah 45:19; Isaiah 45:25.

fear him] R.V., stand in awe of Him (Psalm 33:8).

23, 24. Already he can imagine himself standing ‘in the great congregation.’ These are the words in which he summons them to praise.

For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
24. For he hath not despised as men do (Psalm 22:6) nor abhorred as something loathsome and abominable (Isaiah 49:7, though the word here is even stronger) the affliction of the afflicted. Cp. Psalm 69:33. The ‘servant of Jehovah’ (Isaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:7) and Zion’s future king (Zechariah 9:9) are both described as ‘afflicted.’ See note on Psalm 9:12.

hid his face] In anger (Psalm 10:11, Psalm 13:1); or abhorrence (Isaiah 53:3, R.V.).

My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
25. My praise shall be of thee] Rather as R.V., Of thee cometh my praise. From his fellow-worshippers the Psalmist turns to Jehovah, who is not only the object but the source of his praise. “It is the Lord’s doing.”

I will pay my vows] Thank-offerings vowed in the time of trouble. Cp. Psalm 66:13, Psalm 116:14; Psalm 116:18.

The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
26. The meek shall eat and be satisfied] The flesh of a sacrifice offered in performance of a vow was to be eaten on the same day on which it was offered, or on the morrow (Leviticus 7:16; Numbers 15:3). The Psalmist will invite the meek to join him in this eucharistic meal. Such an invitation is not indeed prescribed in the Law, but it is in full accordance with the command to invite the poor and needy to share in the tithes (Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 26:12; where the phrase ‘eat and be satisfied’ occurs), and in the harvest festivals (Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14). There seems to be no good reason for supposing that the words are to be understood wholly in a figurative and spiritual sense, though on the other hand their meaning is not to be limited to the external performance of a ritual ceremony. At any rate the language of this and the preceding verse is based upon the idea of a sacrifice of thanksgiving of which the worshippers partook (Psalm 23:5). ‘Eat and be satisfied’ is not merely a current formula for the refreshment which flows from Divine blessing, the Psalmist anticipating that his own deliverance will lead to the prosperity of all the godly.

that seek him] R.V., that seek after him. All Jehovah’s devoted followers (see on Psalm 24:6) will swell the anthem.

your heart shall live &c.] R.V., let your heart live for ever. The entertainer invokes a blessing on his guests. May those who were ready to perish be revived and quickened with an undying energy! With the whole verse cp. Psalm 69:32.

If the primary and immediate reference is to a sacrificial feast, it is clear that the words reach far beyond the outward rite to the spiritual communion of which it was the symbol; while the Christian reader cannot but see the counterpart and fulfilment of the words in the Holy Eucharist.

All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
27. All the ends of the world] R.V., of the earth. The remotest countries. Cp. Psalm 67:7; Psalm 98:3.

shall remember &c.] There was a knowledge of God, to which the nations might attain through the witness of His works without and the witness of conscience within. But they ‘forgot Him’ (Psalm 9:17) and turned away from Him to idols of their own imagination (Romans 1:21; Romans 1:28). But one day they will ‘remember’ and ‘return.’ Cp. Jeremiah 16:19 ff.

all the kindreds of the nations] All the families of the nations; realising the patriarchal promise (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 28:14).

27–31. The Psalmist’s hopes take a wider range, extending to all mankind and to future ages. He anticipates the time when not he alone, not the seed of Israel only, but all nations to earth’s remotest bound, will pay homage to Jehovah. From personal hopes he passes to national hopes, from national hopes to universal hopes, reaching forward into the future from generation to generation. But this establishment of Jehovah’s kingdom is not explicitly regarded as the fruit of the Psalmist’s sufferings. We are not yet upon the level of Isaiah 53. Perhaps the nations are represented as being attracted by Jehovah’s deliverance of His servant, though even this is not clear.

For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations.
28. The reason for this homage. It is but the recognition of the present fact of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. Cp. Obadiah 1:21; Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1; Zechariah 14:16-17.

and he is the governor &c.] R.V., and he is the ruler over the nations. Cp. Psalm 66:7; Psalm 103:19.

All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
29. A most obscure verse. The first line (according to the present text) may be rendered literally,

All earth’s fat ones have eaten and worshipped.

The tense is a ‘prophetic perfect’; with the eye of faith the Psalmist sees homage already paid to Jehovah even by the haughty nobles of the earth. They abandon their proud self-sufficiency, and join in the eucharistic meal with the meek (Psalm 22:26), whom once they despised and persecuted. Then he continues

Before him bow all that were going down to the dust,

Yea he who could not keep his soul alive.

Those who were on the edge of the grave, ready to die from want and misery and trouble, come as guests and gain new life. Rich and poor, strong and weak, alike partake of the feast: for it the rich desert their wealth; in it the poor receive the compensation of their privations; and those who were ready to die find life. Cp. Isaiah 25:6-8.

This seems to be the best explanation of the text as it stands; but it is open to serious objections. The reference to the sacrificial meal is very abrupt; the sense given to ‘those that go down to the dust’ is questionable; and the last line drags heavily at the end of the verse.

Others suppose that the contrast intended is not between rich and poor, but between the living and the dead. ‘Earth’s fat ones’ are those in the full vigour of life: eat means simply ‘enjoy life’: all they that have gone down into the dust are the dead. Quick and dead bow in homage before the universal sovereign. Cp. Php 2:10. Attractive as this explanation is, the idea is foreign to the O.T. See Psalm 115:17; Isaiah 38:18; and Introd. p. xxvff.,

But the text is not improbably corrupt. An easy emendation, adopted by several critics, simplifies the first line thus:

Surely him shall all earth’s fat ones worship,

and the second line repeats the thought,

Before him shall bow all they that must go down to the dust.

Earth’s mightiest are but mortals and must yield their homage to the King of kings. Then the last line should be joined to the next verse thus:

And as for him that could not keep his soul alive,

His seed shall serve Him.

The Psalmist and those who like him were at the point of death will leave a posterity behind them to serve Jehovah. The reading indicated by the LXX, But my soul liveth unto him, my seed shall serve him, suits the context less well.

A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
30. It shall be accounted &c.] i.e. as R.V. marg., It shall be counted unto the Lord for his generation. Better, however, as R.V. text, It shall be told of the Lord unto the next generation. But here again it seems best slightly to alter the text, and following the LXX to connect the first word of Psalm 22:31 with Psalm 22:30 : It shall be told of the Lord unto the generation that shall come: for (1) the generation needs the qualification which R.V. supplies by inserting next: and (2) they shall come absolutely in the sense of they shall come into being is doubtful.

They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
31. and shall &c.] And they shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born; i.e. to the next generation. From one generation to another the tradition of Jehovah’s righteousness, of His faithfulness to His covenant, will be handed down.

that he hath done this] Or as R.V., that he hath done it. The object is not expressed. Cp. Psalm 37:5 (which combines Psalm 22:8; Psalm 22:31); Psalm 52:9; Psalm 119:126; Isaiah 44:23; Numbers 23:19; Numbers 23:23. “Genesis 28:15 unites the first and last lines of the Psalm.” Kay. He has wrought out His purpose of salvation, interposed on His servant’s behalf, proved Himself the living righteous and true God.

The song of praise, begun by the Psalmist (Psalm 22:22), is taken up by Israel; all the nations of the earth swell the chorus; and the strain echoes on through all the ages. So gloriously ends the Psalm which began in the darkest sorrow. Per crucem ad lucem. It is a parable of the history of the individual, of Israel, of the Church, of the world.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

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